I suck at prayer.
I believe that God loves us and that he's redeeming, out of all the pain and suffering of this world, beauty and joy and peace and life.
I believe God gives us good gifts in the midst of all the darkness.
But when it comes to asking for specific things to come out the way I want, I suck at prayer.
So often I've seen those specific prayers go unanswered--especially the important ones. Maybe somebody gets the parking spot they want or that great new job they were waiting for, but what about the cancer?
What about the brain tumors?
What about debilitating mental illness?
What about the stuff that REALLY matters?
Why don't those prayers get answered the way they should?
Thousands of us might be praying for healing and restoration, sincerely and with desperation.
And then we find ourselves standing by a casket.
What does prayer mean then?
Once I've prayed for LIFE and lost out, then it's hard for me to pray for a good parking spot. It really is.
I've let go if the idea that if I just pray, I'm going to get what seems right to me. Even when the thing I want would bring the best of all good things: life and health and joy and peace.
Sometimes we get, instead, death and infirmity and loss and grief.
This is the world.
Bad things happen here, in this broken world. And no amount of praying seems to stop the bad things and the brokenness.
What I'm left with is this, the bedrock of my faith.
God is Love.
He loves us.
This world is broken,
and God loves us in this broken world,
through every difficult and delightful moment,
on to life everlasting.
When it comes to prayer these days, I try to keep in mind what Anne Lamott says: "What's the difference between God and me? God never thinks he's me."
I try always to remember that I am not God.
I am not in charge here.
And then I try to remember who is in charge here: Love.
Lately I see three ways to be in the world that might be a new kind of praying, three ways to be that help me join in with Love.
Most of my life I've been a stay-at-home mom. And one of the things about being a stay-at-home mom is that if you're good at your job, nobody will notice what you do. Keeping the house clean and putting food on the table and wiping butts for years on end is NBD. It's only when you put vegetables on the dinner table that anybody sees what you're doing and complains.
And I think maybe God's job is a bit like this. He holds the universe together faithfully each day, in incomprehensible Love and beauty, and a lot of times, it's only when the vegetables get served that we notice it's not going how we wanted it.
I'm not trying to minimize the difficulty and pain we all suffer. It's real and it matters. My entire life as a therapist is built on that reality. Being honest about our pain is enormously important, and without deep emotional honesty, we are left with shallow, counterfeit excuses for truth and beauty and even gratitude.
But I think it's easy for us to live like children, taking our good lives for granted, without really seeing what's around us. And I don't want to be a brat, so I'm practicing conscious gratitude these days. Receiving the Love in all its perfection.
Today in my life the sun shines, the birds sing, the flowers bloom, and today I will be prfoundly grateful for these good gifts. I will notice God's faithful care, his grace and blessing poured out to us all.
Tomorrow the storms may come. Gratitude may be hard. And when that happens, I'm going to be holding onto:
A while back, I started lighting candles as a form of prayer. I started this because I was deeply concerned for people I care about, and feeling helpless to make a difference. I knew I sucked at prayer, and I didn't think asking for specific things was the way to go, since God is God and I am not. I didn't know what to do.
But, I live in Texas, and we have vigil candles in the grocery store here, and one day I just filled my basket with vigil candles, set up an altar in my entry way, and started lighting those candles.
And for me it's become an expression of trust to God:
"God, you know what worries me now. You know what's on my heart. I'm putting this here before you now as I light these candles. Let your Love be enough for us when I don't know the way through, and I'm too sad to be grateful."
When I don't know what else to do, I light my candles. And I let that be an act of trust.
I think that participating in Love can be a great act of prayer.
And I think that if we all participated in Love as we are gifted, each person living and breathing out the image of God, the world would probably be much less in need of prayer than it is today.
So, I suck at prayer.
But I'm practicing gratitute, trust, and participation.
And that feels like divine connection to me.
Which feels like prayer.